Orthodontic FAQ


What is Orthodontics?
Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that is officially known as Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. The purpose of orthodontics is to treat any type of malocclusion, which is simply another way of saying "bad bite."

When you have a malocclusion, that means your teeth, lips and/or jaws don't line up the way they should. As a result, your teeth may be crooked, your bite may not work correctly and your jaws may look unbalanced.

To fix bad bites, orthodontists - dentists who are specially trained - use braces and other corrective procedures, to achieve tooth and jaw alignment.

What is an Orthodontist?
An orthodontist is a specialist in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. All orthodontists are dentists, but only about six percent of dentists are orthodontists. Admission to orthodontic programs is extremely competitive and selective.

An orthodontist must complete college requirements before stating a three to five year graduate program at a dental school accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA). After dental school, at least two or three academic years of advanced specialty education in an ADA accredited orthodontic program are required to be an orthodontist.

What Causes Orthodontic Problems?
Most orthodontic problems are inherited. Examples of these genetic problems are crowding, spacing, protrusion, extra or missing teeth and some jaw growth problems.

Other malocclusions are acquired. In other words, they develop over time. They can be caused by thumb or finger sucking, mouth breathing, dental disease, abnormal swallowing, poor dental hygiene, the early or late loss of baby (primary) teeth, loss of permanent teeth, accidents, poor nutrition, or some medical problems.

Whatever the cause, an orthodontist is usually able to treat most conditions successfully.

Why is Treatment so Important?
Crooked and crowded teeth are hard to clean and maintain. Such problems can contribute to tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss. A bad bite can also cause abnormal wear of tooth surfaces, difficulty in chewing and/or speaking, excess stress on supporting bone and gum tissue, and possible jaw joint problems.

What is the psychological impact of orthodontic therapy?
The emotional side of an unattractive smile may lower your self-esteem. Treatment may reduce appearance-consciousness during the critical development years. Appearances can have an effect on popularity, social behaviors, self-expectation, personality style, and self-image.

Adult orthodontics may positively affect career patterns, social acceptance, and self-confidence.

Why Should All Children Get an Orthodontic Check-Up by Age 7?
Most orthodontic treatment begins between the ages of 9 and 14, however, by age 7, most children have a mix of adult and baby teeth. Orthodontists can spot subtle problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth while some baby teeth are still present. That's important, because some orthodontic problems are easier to correct if they're found early.

Is an adult ever too old for braces?
No. Orthodontic treatment can be successful at almost any age. In fact, about one in every five orthodontic patients today is over age 18. Adults who have healthy teeth, bones and gums respond well to orthodontic treatment. It is never too late to get a healthy, beautiful smile.

What are orthodontic records and why are they necessary?
Orthodontic records usually include x-rays, photographs of the teeth and face, and models of the teeth. The records provide a wealth of information that is not always revealed by a visual examination. This may include missing teeth, extra teeth, the condition and development of tooth roots, growth patterns of the jaw and face, symmetry, and a host of other factors. Complete records form the basis for a thorough and accurate diagnosis and a sound treatment plan.